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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible

John 21



Other Authors
Verses 1-25

John 21:1-3. After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself. There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee. and two other of his disciples. Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee.

They could not do better. Idleness is the most injurious condition in which a man can be found. A preacher is much better occupied fishing than doing nothing.

John 21:3. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.

Even apostles may fish and catch nothing. Do not be discouraged, you who, when you are endeavoring to fish for souls, for many a day catch nothing.

John 21:4. But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.

Yet he was their old familiar friend. Was it their unbelief? Let us hope not. Was it that a remarkable change had passed over the Master — that, after his resurrection from the dead, there was a glory about him quite unusual, such as they had never seen before, except when they were with him on the holy mount? Perhaps so.

John 21:5. Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat?

Just the kind of language you would expect from him — to call them children, and to inquire even about their temporal wants. For evermore the Lord had an eye to the temporal condition of the twelve, as well as to their spiritual. “Have ye any meat?”

John 21:5-6. They answered him, No. And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.

Christ knows where fishes are. He knows where you are then, my friend, though you do not, perhaps, know where you are yourself. You have get out of your own latitude, mentally and spiritually. You could not describe yourself, but Christ knows every minnow in the brook, and every fish in the lake, and knows where you are. Christ can bring fish where he wants them to be. He brought them into the net. Christ can bring souls into his net tonight. At his will, their will shall sweetly yield itself up, and they shall come into the net.

John 21:7. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat unto him, (for he was naked,)

He was in his undress.

John 21:7-8. And did cast himself into the sea. And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes.

It is all very well of Peter to be in such a hurry, but somebody must keep hold of the net. It is not always the most venturesome that is the most practical. We are glad to have some splendidly rash brethren, but we are equally glad that the rest are not quite so rash and are a little more prudent.

John 21:9. As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon and bread.

Christ had provided this. We are to catch fish as if we should have nothing to eat if we did not, but yet we are to depend upon him as it we never caught a fish ourselves. Do everything as if you had to do everything; trust in God as if you had to do nothing. The blending of these two will make a wise believer. “They saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread.”

John 21:10. Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught.

“I do not need it in order to entertain you, for I have fish here already; still, bring it.” Nothing is given in vain; use it.

John 21:11-12. Simon Peter went up and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken. And Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord.

Inwardly conscious that it was Christ’s habit to speak as he had spoken. Nobody could have caught his manner, and besides, what secret instinct enabled them to discern their meek and lowly Lord, even through the glory which surrounded him?

John 21:13-14. Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them. and fish likewise. This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.

Count the visits of Christ. “This is now the third time.” We ought to remember Christ’s visits to us so well and so thoroughly that we could tell how many times he has been with us. “This is now the third time.”

John 21:15-17. So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

Nobody can feed Christ’s sheep unless they love him, and when we love Christ the most practical way of showing it is by taking care of his lambs — his little ones — and of all those that are his — his sheep. Love will teach us how to do it. Love will sign our commission, and ordain us to the work. The Master went on to say: —

John 21:18. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest; but when thou shall be old, thon shall stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.

Peter, thou wilt have to be girded with an iron chain, and taken off to prison, and taken off to the cross to die.

John 21:19. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.

That is your life business. Follow me, even though you end, as I did, on a cross. Follow me. I am a shepherd; you must be a shepherd too; and as the sheep follow you, so do you follow me.

John 21:20-21. Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?

What about this man?

John 21:22. Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou me.

We ought not to be curious about the future of anybody. We must not be inquiring into what is not revealed; and what the Saviour said on this occasion was misunderstood; and if the words of Jesus, even when he spoke them, were misunderstood so as to become the foundation of a false tradition, you may judge how little value can ever be put upon tradition in the Church.

John 21:23. Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but if I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?

The Word of God is to be trusted, and not tradition, for in the handing of a message from mouth to mouth it generally varies. It sometimes loses its very essential spirit, and sometimes may be made to say the very reverse of what was said. Stick to the word, and leave the traditions alone.

John 21:24-25. This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

Such a full life — so pregnant with meaning — so active, and all its activity so intensely real and spiritual, that to write a life of Christ is an impossibility: and though there have been many very admirable “lives of Christ” in our time, I recommend you to keep to one which is the best of them all, and that one is written by four. The Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are the best life of Christ out of sight. All others must be but mere helps to the understanding of these four.


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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on John 21:4". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". 2011.

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